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ARENAS, RIO JANINA B.

                                                                                  ANG, FRANCIS
Eng 10 THY2                                                                                                     December 14, 2017

Bagong Cristo: A Play On Why the Filipino Needs A Savior

The play Bagong Cristo is not just a revival of Aurelio Tolentino’s acclaimed play, but is

also a reminder that our social condition might have never changed even after one hundred ten

years since Tolentino wrote the play.

I watched the play during the gala night without knowing that it was the first night of the

play. The set was splendid, the actors fulfilled their parts beautifully, and the plot remains as

socially significant as most of the productions of Dulaang UP. The performances of Boo

Gabunada and Rica Nepomuceno stood out. I admire how Gabunada delivered his lines—strings

of lengthy persuasive speeches in Filipino—seamlessly, while Nepomuceno’s soft soprano in her

two melancholic singing numbers still haunts me weeks after watching. The ensemble performed

two songs at the latter part of the play, and I think I teared up a bit. The mention of the word

“bayan” and how the cast sang the song passionately and waved the Philippine flag earnestly

stirred something in me—the spirit of nationalism, if you will.

After watching the play, it was not really the aesthetics of the set or the execution of the

cast that left a mark. First, it was the realization of how the plot resembles the condition of the

Filipino society in the present. The days when the Catholic Church’s control on the faithful

through indulgencies are far gone, but its control on Philippine policies through dogmatism

continues (Santiago, “No to Responsible Parenthood…”). The working class still earns so little

from their labor. Our farmers are still being exploited by oligarchs; these generations of farmers

still do not have their own lands (Simbol, “12 years on, still no justice...”).
Second, the premise that the mass needs a Savior as what was demonstrated in the play,

for me, is a problematic—even dangerous—idea. It was bothersome on my part that Jesus

Gatbiaya in his long speeches did not clearly distinguish himself, a man from a humble

background, from Christ who was an embodiment of perfection—a Savior who never sinned. In

line with this, I cannot help associating the Bagong Cristo with Duterte. They share nothing in

terms of ideology, but it is terrifying if we consider that both have a huge number of followers

who listens to them. It is frightening that the salvation or the fall of a nation depends on how

charismatic and how good of an orator the leader whom the people choose to follow is. After all,

Hitler, Marcos, and Jesus Christ share those two characteristics—the only difference is that Jesus

Christ didn’t spearhead killings of innocents (Canlas, “LOOK: Martial Law in Numbers”;

“Documenting Numbers...”).

The Filipino mass looks for a Savior every time there is a persisting social problem. The

emergence of a Messiah who would save our nation from downfall is a promising thought, and a

change in the system—even a glimpse is undoubtedly appealing to the Filipino masses. What if

Duterte is considered the Bagong Cristo? It is true that our rightfully elected leaders need our

support, but what if that support turns into an idolatry? What if this misogynistic president with

bravado as a front would receive continued praise despite his flaws, and we as a people,

especially the millions who continually support him become so uncritical of his leadership?

I think the message of the play is that we are our own Saviors. The nation needs an

effective leader, but what it needs the most are people who remain vigilant and critical of their

own government and know when they’re being exploited or not. The salvation of the social

condition depends on our ability to act just like how when the New Christ of the obreros dies at

the end of the play, the obreros are the ones who stood up for themselves.
Bibliography

Canlas, KC. “LOOK: Martial Law in Numbers.” When In Manila, 26 Feb. 2016,
www.wheninmanila.com/look-martial-law-in-numbers/. Accessed 14 Dec. 17.
“Documenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution.” United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,
www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10008193. Accessed 14 Dec. 17.
Simbol, Dax. “12 years on, still no justice for Hacienda Luisita massacre victims.” Rappler, 17
Nov. 2016, www.rappler.com/move-ph/152595-hacienda-luisita-12-years-justice.
Accessed 14 Dec. 17.
Santiago, Aurora. “No to Responsible Parenthood Bill, a.K.a. RH Bill!” CBCP News,
www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=1151. Accessed 14 Dec. 17.